Hands-on learn­ing at JJ Cairns

In­tern­ships fo­cus on prac­ti­cal ed­u­ca­tion

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - By MATT SARR msarr@porter­villere­corder.com

Ed­u­ca­tors get ex­cited when a new pro­gram has an im­me­di­ate pos­i­tive ef­fect on stu­dents and cre­ates an en­thu­si­asm for learn­ing at their school. One Lind­say school has adopted an in­no­va­tive new ap­proach to ed­u­cat­ing its stu­dents, and the re­sponse has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions.

John J. Cairns High School, the con­tin­u­a­tion high school of the Lind­say Uni­fied School District, is in its sec­ond year of an in­tern­ship pro­gram that is chang­ing the way its stu­dents view their ed­u­ca­tion by com­bin­ing class­room lessons with hands-on lessons in the work­place.

“We build a per­son­al­ized learn­ing plan for ev­ery learner, and part of that plan is their in­ter­ests post-high school,” said Den­nis Doane, prin­ci­pal of John J. Cairns High School.

Ev­ery Tues­day and Thurs­day, all JJC stu­dents grades 10 through 12 spend the en­tire day out in the com­mu­nity with a lo­cal busi­ness part­ner, do­ing work re­lated to what they might be in­ter­ested in do­ing af­ter high school. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in this Learn­ing Through In­tern­ships (LTI) pro­gram is part of the school’s re­quire­ments for grad­u­a­tion.

Stu­dents can choose from a va­ri­ety of in­tern­ship op­tions, or pro­pose their own idea for an in­tern­ship based on their in­ter­ests. In the pro­gram’s first year, JJC stu­dents in­terned as welders, med­i­cal as­sis­tants, teach­ers, of­fice man­agers, bak­ers, elec­tri­cians, and ve­teri­nary as­sis­tants among sev­eral other oc­cu­pa­tions. This year, over 100 stu­dents are par­tic­i­pat­ing in in­tern­ships at 60 sites around Tu­lare County.

Con­cepts rel­e­vant to the in­tern­ship are also in­cor­po­rated into the cur­ricu­lum of their class­room stud­ies on Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day with cross-cur­ric­u­lar projects. For ex­am­ple, one in­tern work­ing at Lind­say Tire last year asked his men­tor about oil dis­posal. That ques­tion later evolved into a rel­e­vant class­room les­son about EPA reg­u­la­tions and en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness.

At the end of each se­mes­ter, stu­dents make a 45 to 60 minute pre­sen­ta­tion about their in­tern­ship ex­pe­ri­ence. In the pro­gram’s first year, 90 per­cent of par­ents showed up for this event.

The new in­tern­ship pro­gram is the re­sult of a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween JJC staff and Big Pic­ture Learn­ing, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to a fun­da­men­tal re­design of ed­u­ca­tion through­out the United States. To­gether, they de­signed a pro­gram where stu­dents would spend con­sid­er­able time in the com­mu­nity un­der the tute­lage of men­tors, and would not be eval­u­ated solely by stan­dard­ized test scores. In­stead, stu­dents would also be as­sessed on ethics, mo­ti­va­tion, and work habits — a more ac­cu­rate de­pic­tion of the real world eval­u­a­tions they will ex­pe­ri­ence as mem­bers of the work­force.

“We de­sign ed­u­ca­tion around the learner,” said Doane. “We base our spend­ing on what they need, we make de­ci­sions based on what they need, we hire based on what they need. No longer is it about the con­ve­nience of the ed­u­ca­tor, it’s about the pri­or­ity of the learner.”

Busi­ness men­tors are asked to treat stu­dent in­terns like em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing hir­ing, fir­ing and dis­ci­pline. If a stu­dent falls short on one of the in­tern­ship re­quire­ments, JJC staff ap­proach it as yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to learn.

Af­ter the in­tern­ship pro­gram’s first year at JJC in 2016-17, staff saw an im­me­di­ate im­prove­ment in stu­dent par­tic­i­pa­tion. Sus­pen­sions dropped from 10 to 4 per­cent, at­ten­dance jumped from 83 to 96 per­cent, and grad­u­a­tion rate im­proved from 78 to 90 per­cent. Last year, 90 per­cent of JJC grad­u­ates had a post-high school plan, in­clud­ing ju­nior col­lege and trade school en­roll­ments.

“It [the in­tern­ship pro­gram] has im­pacted our dis­ci­pline, at­ten­dance and grad­u­a­tion rate be­cause the stu­dents want to be here,” said Doane

Elvin Ro­driguez, JJC se­nior and cur­rent in­tern at Wild Bill’s Bar­ber­shop and Shave Par­lor in Lind­say, is en­joy­ing the hands-on com­po­nent the in­tern­ship brings to his ed­u­ca­tion.

“It’s good be­cause you get to put your hands on the work you want to do,” said Ro­driguez. When he isn’t clean­ing and pre­par­ing the shop for busi­ness, he gains valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence by shad­ow­ing the bar­bers, learn­ing hair­cut­ting tech­niques as well as tips on how to be a re­li­able pro­fes­sional. Ro­driguez hopes to at­tend Bak­ers­field Bar­ber Col­lege af­ter grad­u­a­tion and some­day open his own bar­ber shop.

Rick Loftin, owner of Wild Bill’s and busi­ness men­tor for JJC High School, ap­pre­ci­ates the ex­tra help around the shop, but hopes that his in­terns learn valu­able life lessons as well.

“When you walk into a busi­ness, make eye con­tact and shake some­one’s hand, you make an im­pres­sion be­fore say­ing any­thing,” said Loftin. “I want [my in­terns] to fin­ish this ex­pe­ri­ence with a sense of con­fi­dence that they can in­still in their lives and carry with them when they leave.”


Elvin Ro­driguez, 17, center, ob­serves the hair­cut­ting tech­niques of Ser­gio Flores Tues­day, at Wild Bill’s Bar­ber­shop & Shave Par­lor in Lind­say. Ro­driguez, a se­nior at J.J. Cairns High School, works at the par­lor twice a week as part of the school’s in­tern­ship pro­gram.

Elvin Ro­driguez, 17, center, sweeps the floor as owner Rick Loftin and Ser­gio Flores tend to cus­tomers Tues­day.

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